Orange Beach votes to create a municipal school system
With no comment and little information provided, the Orange Beach City Council voted on Tuesday to create its own municipal school system.
The unanimous vote was followed by applause and a brief statement from Mayor Tony Kennon, who said “it’s been a long time coming.”
- Alabama‘s beach towns conclude ‘long journey’ to define their educational future
- Orange Beach and Bay Minette get new schools while Gulf Shores smokes
The resolution authorizing the formation of the municipal school stated that the mayor and council determined that “the best interests of the city and its citizens shall be served by the establishment of a municipal board of education.”
Under the resolution, the Orange Beach City School Board will consist of five members who are residents of the city and who are not members of the city council. The council, however, will appoint the members of the board of directors.
After serving initial staggered terms, each member of the Orange Beach City School Board will then serve for five-year terms.
According to the resolution, the city school board will have “all powers, authority and duties provided by law” which includes the administration and supervision of public schools and the “educational interests of the city school system in ‘Orange Beach’. The board’s responsibility includes maintaining “all things necessary and proper for the management” of the city’s school system. »
It is unclear when Orange Beach will officially separate from the Baldwin County school system. In 2017, the Gulf Shores City Council voted to break away from the county‘s school system, setting off a long and often tense negotiation that wasn’t finalized until 2019.
It’s also unclear what the costs of a new school system will mean for taxpayers. Voters in Orange Beach in 2014 rejected a proposal to raise property taxes by $5 million to form an independent school.
Mayor Tony Kennon could not be reached for immediate comment.
The decision came as a surprise to the Baldwin County school system.
“We learned of this agenda item this afternoon at approximately 4 a.m. through a City of Orange Beach public publication,” the county school superintendent said. of Baldwin, Eddie Tyler, in a statement. “We have had no communication with the city or elected officials about this. We look forward to hearing more about their proposals and actions after tonight’s meeting and later in the week. »
The county school system, through its Pay-As-You-Go School Building Program, in 2017 funded a new $34 million high school and middle school for Orange Beach. The Baldwin County School Board supported the Orange Beach project despite pleas from Gulf Shores officials to support a construction project in their city. The decision was seen as a catalyst for Gulf Shores to break away and form its own municipal school in that tie.
Local legislation was approved in 2019 that requires a new city school district to pay the Baldwin County School System the assessed value of school buildings in the event of a school split. Until then, the City of Gulf Shores School was the first and only urban district created in the county.
Legislation was introduced and debated in 2018 that would have made it harder for a city to break away from a county school system, but it was not approved by state lawmakers. Current Alabama law only requires a city to have a population of 5,000 and commit to paying $10 million in property taxes to create its own school system. Nor does the law require that a city’s residents vote to form a new school system.
A 2019 report from EdBuild, a national organization focused on equitable school funding, released a report in 2019 titled “Fractured: The Breakdown of US School Districtswhich highlights how 10 new Alabama School Districts have formed across the state since 2000.
Only 47 new school districts had been formed nationwide during that same period. The 2019 Gulf Shores breakaway was Alabama’s 10th since 2000.